A not uncommon scenario for me is to be asked to roll out the recipe for building an online community of practice. What software/platform should we use? What are the steps? There is usually funding for a platform, and, increasingly, some funding for training and facilitation as an add on to the platform.
Dave Snowden talks of something similar in Natural numbers, networks and communities. "...in the early days" a portal was installed, a taxonomy created and you sat back and wondered how you could get people to codify their knowledge. Another rule was you rolled out the plans, templates and processes to build a community of practice and wondered how to motivate people to engage.
Snowden advises not to spend money on roll out programmes, but to use it on training super-users among the opinion leaders. In my own proposals I have called these people "champions" and budgeted for involving them in the choice of selecting tools and helping them to use them. In other words, look at what is already there and, as Wenger, White and Smith say in the Communities of Practice Tech report (soon to come out) - see how you can support and extend what they are already doing.
The problem with this process is that it can look messy, unstructured and not controlled. And it doesn't forefront a glitzy super site that will impress the funders. On the contrary this approach even suggests that simple tools could do the job.
Beth Kanter has a great PowerPoint presentation on "Demystifying Web2.0 tools" that she and David Wilcox did in London on Monday. In it she suggests how you can tell if an organisation is ready for Web2.0:
- you want to express the human voice of your organisation
- you want to enable easy ways for people to share knowledge and information
- open source thinking - willing to share ideas in progress and let others join in and help it
- can deal with the messiness
- you already have the basics covered.
- you are obsessively controlling
- if your organization is not ready for some changes in how you work
- your audience is not online
- everything must be vetted by central authority
- your copy or campaign messaging is written in stone, not electricity
- you aren't prepared to assist people in learning a new skill and the time to make it an organizational habit.
I can think of two more things I would add to No2.0: 1) you are expecting to spend most of your budget on tools and technology; 2) you haven't thought of a budget that takes you to events and processes beyond the launch of a platform.